July 31st, 2007
Part Three in our series we interview Jarno Lukkarila about his typeface Xtra Sans.
Thanks to the simplicity of the alphabet, thousands of Western fonts are released every year, each with its own cultural and historical nuances.
For Japanese designers, the subtleties can be obscure and difficult to identify, making choosing a good font a daunting task. As a result, many Japanese designers stick with familiar favorites like Helvetica or Garamond, or grasp at decorative fonts that lose their flavor after a few bites.
This series introduces practical, versatile, well-crafted Western fonts by contemporary type designers from around the world. We encourage you to try a few, and learn about the people and thinking behind them.
What was your inspiration for this typeface?
My inspiration for Xtra Sans came from two different sources. I am interested in the sans serifs that appeared in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. Many of them were elegantly simplified which made them visually strong. I also find Medieval (Gothic) European calligraphy very appealing in its detailed but still rigid appearance. Graphically these are two very different branches but in some way both of them share the same visual values. I tried to bring these together in my design.
Xtra Sans seems born out of a love and understanding of type history. How important is it for designers to understand this history when choosing Xtra Sans? If it “just works” for a project, is that also OK?
Yes, absolutely. It isn’t necessary to understand the calligraphic or typographic links behind Xtra Sans in order to use it. I just found inspiration from history and tried to transform it into something new and exciting. All I want is for designers and readers to find Xtra Sans attractive just by looking at it.
What are some of the ideal uses for Xtra Sans?
It works well in magazines and newspapers because of its personal but clear forms. When used at bigger sizes, like in logos, signs or headlines, the font’s unique details draw a lot of attention to the text.
Which single character do you love the most in Xtra Sans?
I would pick out the letter ‘o’ (upper or lower case). Deviations from its standard form give it a lot of new energy, and I repeated this same idea in all the other characters as well. Throughout the typeface, you can find these extra corners, which come from handwriting.
Do you have a favorite typeface, or one that has influenced you the most?
There are many old typefaces that I find highly interesting. One of them is Syntax by Hans Eduard Meier, designed in the late 1960s. It has its Swiss seriousness but there is also a lot of life in its lines.
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